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Teamsters Local 853 Make History at First Transit


Workers at First Transit, Inc. in Redwood City, California who are members of Teamsters Local 853, ratified a first contract on May 11. The contract, which covers Dispatchers and Supervisors, is the first of its kind for the Teamsters Union. 

“Congratulations to all of our members who worked hard and fought for a strong contract at First Transit,” said Rome Aloise, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 853. “These workers came together to fight hard for their rights, and their efforts are a great example of the work being done to improve conditions all across the passenger transportation industry.”

The contract includes wage increases for the next three years, including a minimum increase of 6 percent for the first year of the contract. It also includes holiday premium pay, two types of annual wage increases, and a 15-percent reduction in health and welfare costs for the workers. This is in addition to the standard job protections and grievance procedure language that comes with Teamster contracts.

“The challenge with any first contract is that there’s a significant learning curve for management going through the process for the first time,” said Phil Ybarrolaza, Local 853 Business Agent. “It’s difficult for the negotiating committee, because they can’t always divulge every single detail of what’s happening at the bargaining table. In the end, though, once everyone recognized the strength of power in numbers, we were able to put together a contract that improves things for everybody.”

Lisa Abarr is a Customer Service Representative who served on the negotiating committee and the organizing committee when the Teamsters first came to her shop. She’s been an integral part of the Teamsters at First Transit Redwood City since day one.

“If there’s one thing I’ve taken away from this, from when we won recognition to winning this contract, it’s that you should know your worth, and no matter what, always live by your moral compass,” Abarr said. “Even if your views are unpopular or inconvenient, still stand by what you believe and never falter. Just because you have a hierarchy with management doesn’t mean your position is any less than theirs.”

Abarr added that the process helped make her workplace more unified.

“We all feel like we’re working together, there’s more overall respect between management and employees. It’s a pleasant work environment. Everyone I talk to is happy with the whole contract,” Abarr said.